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Editor in chief: Angelo Scorza
20/03/20 10:13

Also Switzerland is close to business

Berna declared an extraordinary situation and introduced new measures to tackle the COVID-19 emergency while additional money for rail freight were allocated

On Monday, March 16, the Federal Council of the Helvetic Confederation has declared an ‘extraordinary situation’ in terms of the Epidemics Act and has introduced new uniform measures in all cantons.

Immediately and until April 19 all shops, restaurants, bars, entertainment and leisure facilities will remain closed; not affected by the new measures are food stores and pharmacies.

Berna also decided to introduce checks on the borders to Germany, Austria and France, while to Italy such measure was already taken.

The Federal Council has also authorised the deployment of 8,000 members of the armed forces to assist the cantons at hospitals and with logistics and security.

Meanwhile the Swiss government allocated an additional amount of 295 million Swiss Francs to support rail freight traffic, on top of the 90 million Swiss Francs reserved by the Federal Council, for a total of 385 million Swiss Francs, on the argument that the shift from road to rail has not yet been achieved according to plan.

Previously these subsidies were to be abolished in 2023 until the Federal Council decided in November 2019  to continue supporting the industry until at least 2026.

The Swiss modal shift policy provides that the number of journeys by domestic and foreign lorries and semi-trailers through the Swiss Alps must be lowered from what was 1.4 million in 2000 to 650,000 per year. In 2017 and 2018, 954.000 and 941.000 transalpine journeys of HVG’s were counted respectively.

While Switzerland has done extensive work to facilitate rail freight traffic through the Alps, the National Council said it would propose a state treaty for an alternative route to the north on the left bank of the Rhine river over French soil. The director of the Federal Department for infrastructure and environment Simonetta Sommaruga agreed with the proposal, but warned that this would be a challenging task. “The French may not have equal interest in the route, and the Swiss government will need to back up the plan financially, considering its interest in the route” told the Swiss minister.

It is well known that Switzerland takes a leading role when it comes to modal shift policy, in place since 2000, with the main aim of protecting the Alps, which forms an integral part of the freight corridor connecting the port of Rotterdam with the south of Italy, as a response to a growing number of trucks on the road, causing congestion (especially on the Brenner axis Italy to Austria).

The charges for using the Swiss railway network will be decreased by 90 million francs every year, starting from January 2021; also a special discount is to be introduced for long freight trains. Other measures are an adjustment in the classification of distance-related heavy goods vehicle charges: trucks of emission classes EURO IV and V should no longer fall into a more favorable category. Since 2001, lorries on all Swiss roads pay distance-, weight- and emissions-related charges: two thirds of revenues are allocated to the Rail Infrastructure Fund (RIF). Without the latest adjustment, the weighted average would fall from 293 francs (2018) to 275 francs in 2024.